Illinois' infant mortality rate for 2008 (the latest year available) was 7.2 deaths for every 1,000 live births. The absolute number of infant deaths-1,263-while the second lowest recorded is high in terms of personal loss and lives not lived.
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) helps to reduce this loss through the integrated delivery of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Family Case Management (FCM). These programs combined to serve 45 percent of all infants and 81 percent of the Medicaid-eligible infants born in Illinois. The Department supplements these statewide programs with targeted initiatives (Targeted and Intensive Prenatal Care and Chicago Healthy Start) for women whose chances of giving birth prematurely are greater than average and for infants who have a greater-than-average chance of dying before their first birthday.
Program Success - The Department monitors the performance of the WIC and FCM programs on several short-term health status indicators. At the end of fiscal year 2011, performance on each indicator was as follows:
- The proportion of WIC-eligible children with health insurance was 96.5 percent;
- The proportion of fully-immunized one-year-olds in WIC was 86.0 percent;
- The proportion of fully-immunized two-year-olds in WIC was 79.3 percent;
- The proportion of WIC infants who are breastfed was 69.1 percent;
- The proportion of infants in WIC who were breastfed through six months was 26.1 percent;
- The proportion of children in FCM who received at least three well-child health care visits during the first year of life was up to 87.3 percent; and
- The proportion of women and infants active in either WIC or FCM that are also enrolled in the other program was over 90 percent.
Improved Health Status - For 14 consecutive years, infants born to Medicaid-eligible pregnant women who participated in both WIC and FCM have been found to be in better health than those born to Medicaid-eligible women who did not participate in either program. The rate of very low birth weight has been on average over 60 percent lower than that among nonparticipants, and the rate of infant mortality has averaged 70 percent lower.
Fiscal Savings - In addition to the significant health benefits afforded by the WIC and FCM programs, Illinois' investment in these programs saves the State approximately $200 million each year in Medicaid expenditures. Those expenses for health care in the first year of life were almost 30 percent lower among dual-program participants than among non-participants in 2009.